Imagine going from playing a Munchkin in a community theater production of "The Wizard of Oz" to playing Mother, one of the leads in the national touring company of "Ragtime". Emily Herring did it.\n"(Touring with a show) is a lot like living out of a suitcase," Herring said with a laugh.\nHerring grew up in Alabama and studied classical music and opera at a college in Southern Mississippi and at the University of Tennessee. "Two good southern schools," she said about them. She now lives in New York when not on the road.\nHerring feels that her classical training gave her an advantage in singing Broadway music by helping to improve her technique.\n"I sang before I could talk," Herring said in her lilting, mezzo-soprano voice.\nHerring has played a variety of roles since graduating from college four years ago. They include the Mother Abbess in "Sound of Music," Lily in "The Secret Garden" and Cinderella in an off-off Broadway production of "Into the Woods".\n"I've done old and young characters in the last four years," Herring said. "But that's why I love the fact that I was trained in opera -- it only takes a few weeks to get into it."\nHerring's role as Mother in "Ragtime" is that of a young, compassionate, open-minded woman who tries to remain loyal to her husband despite changes in both of their lives.\n"I want to be this mother," Herring said about her role. "She is so wonderful, especially for early 1900s."\nHerring will be a part of this show until the middle of May. She enjoys playing Mother because she can be herself. This part covers all parts of her vocal range, and because she can both sing "legit" and belt at the same time.\n"It's an honor to be in this show," she said. "I don't want to stop playing this role."\nThe message of "Ragtime" is one of hope, one of passion and one of love. George Pinney, a professor in the Theatre and Drama Department at IU, said it shows the power and passion of people in an industrial age.\n"It shows how in the face of disaster or in the face of hardship, how the human spirit continues," he said.\nHerring enjoys being a part of the cast of "Ragtime." She said she's very proud of the show.\n"The cast is very talented," she said. "We have a lot of fun together...we have the spirit for the show that holds us together. It's a very diverse group."\nAccording to Doug Booher, the interim general manager for the IU Auditorium, "Ragtime" is a show that many people wanted brought to the Auditorium.\n"We always ask our ticket buyers what kind of shows they would like to see, and 'Ragtime' is one that has tested extremely highly," he said.\nHerring enjoys being part of a touring company.\n"We have an advantage because we're not seeing the same theater," she said. "We're excited that we get to travel and see different places and see friends and family."\nTo prepare for the show, the Auditorium will spend the two days before it opens getting ready.\n"When the show rolls in on the first day, we start at 7:00 a.m. putting the show in and building that set and hanging the lights specific for that show," he said. "We start from scratch on every single show, so it's a pretty intense process."\nThis production of "Ragtime" is using some of the same costumes and sets that were originally used in the show.\n"I feel like I'm on Broadway with this production," Herring said. "I feel like I'm wearing Marin Mazzie's (the original actress who played Mother) clothes. It seems kind of surreal to me. Nothing can compare to this."\nBooher hopes many people will attend the show.\n"We really encourage people to come out because this is one of those shows that really captures the essence of America and the American dream from different perspectives," he said. "It's very timely and also very uplifting."\nHerring also encourages everyone to attend.\n"This is a show that every single person, all ages, needs to see," she said. "It's timeless and it's such a great message right now. It's quality, it's substance."\n"Ragtime" will be at the IU Auditorium on Tuesday, Jan. 29 and Wednesday, Jan. 30, at 8:00 p.m. Tickets range between $16 and $36 for students and between $31 and $56 for non-students.
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